Winston Peters apologises to Mongrel Mob's Harry Tam after border breach allegation

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

Former Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has acknowledged he "must be wrong" and apologised to Mongrel Mob life member Harry Tam, after he alleged Tam helped a woman breach Covid-19 border rules.

Winston Peters - Harry Tam.

The NZ First leader had five minutes to go before a deadline that could have seen him face legal action for the claim made earlier this month.

"Mr Tam has said that he was not the Mongrel Mob member that entered Northland," Peters said in a written statement on Tuesday afternoon. 

"On the basis of what he has said, one aspect of the information that I received, and which informed my view on the matter in the interview, must be wrong. 

"I therefore apologise to Mr Tam for naming him as the Mongrel Mob affiliate who entered Northland with others causing a two week Level 3 lockdown."

Peters had alleged Tam was involved in the transport of a Covid-positive traveller in the recent Northland border breach which led to the region entering a level 3 lockdown. Tam denied any involvement, and told 1News on October 16 that he hadn't been to Northland and was taking legal advice about the allegation. 

Tam on Friday threatened the former deputy Prime Minister with legal action if he did not apologise and make a retraction. 

In a letter written by Tam's lawyer, Tam again denied the claim and said he did not know and had no association with either of the two women or their travel to Northland. 

Peters said he was "releasing this correction, based on what Mr Tam has said, to bring attention back to the issue that prompted me to speak to the media in the first place". 

"That is, three persons were able to cross from Auckland’s alert level border to Northland under false essential worker status, cause a two week lockdown, place the Northland community at risk, and why the Government failed to inform the Northland people about this for days."

Tam responded to Peters' apology, saying he was "pleased that Mr Peters has accepted that he was wrong". 

"The simple fact is that I was not involved in anyway and to suggest otherwise, was misleading and caused harm.

"But I know it is a big thing for Mr Peters to admit he is wrong and so I am pleased he is able to on this occasion.

"Sadly, it took the threat of legal action sent to an email provided to me for Mr Peters and that of his usual lawyer, to do so. Anyway, my team have enough to do on the ground to get our people vaccinated and I would prefer to return my attention to that."